As my folks in the village were saying Afa gbara aka la, my friends in faraway Greece were hugging each other with shouts of eftihismeno to neo etos. In every corner of the globe, it is a new year. The old is gone and the new is here, in some sort or the order. Best wishes are in order.
Alan Mabanckou has made a name for himself for his quirky but exceptional novels and Black Bazaar is no exception. On the surface, it is a dizzying combo of humour and linguistic effervescence that amounts to little more than the ramblings of a fashion-crazed Congolese migrant who is obsessed with female backsides and spends most of his time at Jips, the Afro-Cuban bar in Les Halles. When he is not drinking at Jips, he is struggling to ignore his racist neighbour called Mr Hippocratic who niggles him at every turn.
There are critics who say that irrespective of her highly impressive writing skills, that Buchi Emecheta’s works are thinly disguised polemics of pain and suffering of females. The validity of this argument is not relevant as long as the issues raised in her books are real, relevant and even prevalent in our world. The Family is a typical Buch Emecheta work and the protagonist is pummelled by the pains and evils of life for no other reason but simply for being a female.
At the core of it, the story is basically the history of a Jewish man (a hyperactive and talkative one) who was not much to look at, who went about from town to town proclaiming the arrival of a new kingdom intertwined with the embodiment and fulfilment of an ancient promise in the person of a certain Jesus. Irrespective of our liking or dislike of him, agreement or disagreement with his theology or even his belief system, it is indisputable that the man Paul of Tarsus is one of a handful of people from the ancient world whose words still have the capacity to leap off the page and confront us almost two thousand years later.
The Randomness of my reading list throws up a trend every now and again. This year, my reading list contained a bunch of exciting memoirs. How Can Man Die Better is at the top of the pile. The relevance of the subject and the expertise of the writer are wings on which this book soars.
Rape, incest and Murder. These three awful themes are covered in this Achmat Dangor’s novel – Bitter Fruit. The fruit is bitter but in eating it we experience the awfulness of the lives of its characters. Bitter Fruit is set during the last few months of Nelson Mandela’s government and centres around Silas Ali, an ANC stalwart currently a Justice Ministry staff seconded to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC). Silas who is the son of an Indian Muslim father and a European mother is married to Lydia, a Coloured nurse who was born and bred in the Kwa Zulu Natal province. Together they have a delicately handsome son called Mikey, who is troubled and somewhat oedipal.
Adelaine (Ad) Hain died at the age of ninety-two earlier this year. Walter (Wal) her husband had died three years earlier at the age of ninety-one. Ad and Wal is an impressive memoir that chronicles the lives and times of this ordinary couple that did extraordinary things.
Irrespective of your creed, belief or unbelief, one thing seems settled for most of us – evil, pain and tragedy is real and present in the world and sometimes in our very own lives.
The Noir short-story collection series landed in Lagos last year! The series which began with the Brooklyn Noir collection and has over 90 titles all named and set in major cities around the world now has a collection set in Lagos and written by some of the favourite Nigerian writers.
The phrase tour de force is often overused but there is no better way to describe the tome that is The State of Africa. This is a sizeable chunk of sweeping but penetrative analysis of the first fifty years of almost all African countries post-independence.